Joanna Montgomery graduated from DJCAD in 2010 with a brilliant idea, an enterprising spirit and a huge sense of determination. The concept was a simple but powerful one that resonated with people worldwide. Indeed, while still a student she had thousands of likes on her Facebook page and a You Tube video that today has attracted 850,000 views.
She started out by entering pitching competitions to raise capital (which she won) and working the media to build interest including BBC, CNN, Huffington Post – of which she became one of their regular bloggers. And of course, most importantly, working out how to bring it to market – in design, technical and business terms. From the pitching competitions arose her reputation as an inspirational speaker, culminating in her TEDx talk earlier this year.
There were setbacks along the way, many of which would have caused others to have given up, but not her. Some of the challenges arose from her position as a young woman in a male-dominated tech culture. She not only took these on, but wrote powerfully about them, so that others could benefit from her journey.
Yesterday Joanna launched Pillow Talk on Kickstarter. I never doubted for one moment that Pillow Talk would launch. Joanna excelled in the three vital aspects of enterprise – creativity, communication and commitment. She had powerful, relevant and innovative ideas, she perfected the craft of how to inspire others in this vision and in her journey, and she was committed totally to that journey.
And just about every year throughout this difficult and demanding journey, she found the time to come back to Dundee and talk to my students for an hour (or put up with them visiting her), never failing to inspire and generate huge interest. And if that isn’t enough, this inspirational entrepreneur found the time to train and compete to become England’s strongest woman.
But watching her transformation from a person who lived in “a body that I didn’t like” to a confident woman who could pull large trucks up hills with her bare hands, demonstrated something else. Strength is a skill, and skills are learned. The reason my students (and of course many others) find her inspiring is because she shows that with determination and focus, then we can all achieve strength in our work and lives.
Alongside strength, Joanna has another quality which we rarely encourage in entrepreneurs, but which marks her out – honesty – which is often a quality many find difficult to deal with. Her best Huffington Post pieces exemplify this honesty: “I’m OK, You’re OK – But Are We Really?”, “How to Take Care of Yourself When No One Else Will”, “Pretty Face and Thick Skin: Flourishing in a Male World”. I’ve read a fair number of books by entrepreneurs, and very few (if any, frankly) display honesty, which is why I recommend these pieces by Joanna to my students.
Yes, it takes strength: the strength to get through failure and setbacks; the strength to be totally honest; the strength to stay the course.
And as a former tutor, I’m very proud of that achievement.